Графични страници
PDF файл

making its septennial allotment of profits ; nor in distributing its members into classes, in the same manner and in the very

words employed in the deed of settlement of the Equitable.* And this may, perhaps, have been the reason for the latter abandoning it; it could bear no rival near the throne.' There has been at least a strange inconsistency in its conduct: for example, in the year 1793, Mr. Morgan, in his Address, says, “It is impossible to devise a more safe, equitable, and beneficent method of apportioning them (the profits), than by increasing the claims in the manner which has hitherto been uniformly adopted.' Again, in 1795, he says, 'I do not know that a much better method can be devised of making ull the members to participate in the profits of the society, without endangering its security, than that which has been repeatedly adopted during the last fourteen years. And again, in 1800, we find him declaring, that “no better method can be devised, than to persevere in the old plan of making additions to the claims. And what was that old plan? Why, that of dividing the members into classes, when every member of four, five, or six years' standing had additions made to his policy at short intervals : thus, additions were made in the years 1782, 1786, 1791, 1792, 1795, 1800. After which, although no better plans could possibly be adopted, there suddenly came out, in 1810, the six annual payments system, with the decennial periods ; and in 1816, the illegal and unjust separation of the five thousand favoured sheep from the four thousand unlucky goats.

The directors, we are aware, have an answer to all this — Persons need not go to assure at their office unless they like it;' and

They know the terms on which they assure.'—This may be, so far, true; but we venture to say, that two-thirds of those who make assurances neither know the numbers excluded, nor have the least idea of the length of time that must elapse before they can be numbered with the elect. Would any man of tifty-five, for instance, make an assurance at the Equitable, if he knew that there was a probability of his being required to make sixteen or seventeen annual payments before he became qualified; and that it might (according to Mr. Babbage) be twenty-six years before he could participate in the profits—knowing, as he must do, the probability of his life to be only about fifteen years ? It would amount to an absolute fraud, under such circumstances, to admit such an assurer; at any rate the hopeless chance should be explained to him ; though we believe no such explanation is ever given, even if asked for.

* In August last, an appropriation of two-thirds of the surplus profits of the last seven · years was made to all the members of the Rock Society who had paid two annual premiums; and for the credit of this society, we trust that the per centage, be it what it may, is a prospective annual addition,


We must notice another malpractice, confined, we believe, exclusively to the Equitable. It is that of deferring payment of the amount of the policy and profits six months after the death of the party, whereas from one to three months is the common practice of other offices, and is more than amply sufficient for every purpose. Can the Equitable be sordid enough to put the parties to inconvenience for the paltry object of gaining three months' interest? One member, we understand, did plead the cause of the widow and orphan, with respect to an alteration of this rule, and carried his point unanimously; but, this resolution of one court required to be confirmed in the next, at which the proposer was absent, and strange as it may appear, and not very creditable to the feelings of the assembled assurers, the resolution was rejected! Another Society, the United Empire, which pays one-fifth immediately, gives an advantage to the executors of the deceased, which those only who have performed that office can duly appreciate. There are cases where the surviving family have not the means of burying the corpse of the assurer, and where it has been found necessary to raise money for this purpose on the security of the policy. To a society possessed of such a capital and such a revenue as the Equitable has, the loss, in interest, of a few hundred pounds, by the immediate payment of a small fractional part of the policy, would be no great sacrifice to the claims of humanity; and we trust the measure will be re-considered, and meet with a better fate.

We have said, and we repeat, that the society has forfeited the name of Equitable, for the following reasons :

1. Because, under the present system, the exaction of 30 percent. above what the premium ought to be, is unreasonable and unjust.

2. Because, by increasing the period of appropriation to ten years, nearly one-half of the members are excluded from any hope of ever sharing in the profits.

3. Because, by the unjust, and we believe illegal, separation of the co-partners into two classes, an undue share of profits is bestowed upon one class, and none given to the other class, which is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the deed of settlement.

4. Because, by excluding all, who are not in the first class, from being directors though qualified, and from having voices in the general courts, nearly one-half of the society have no means of expressing their grievances, of knowing what is going on, or of dissenting from the unjust proceedings of the other half.

5. Because, the withholding the sum due on the death of the assurer to an unreasonable length of time, is injurious, and very often distressing to the widow and orphans. And,

6. Because, if it be the practice of making retrospective additions only to policies, (as Mr. Babbage supposes,) the families of


those who may die in the intermediate time between two periods, whatever may be the standing of the deceased, will be deprived of those additions which are made to others of the same standing, who may survive-which is a measure of partiality and injustice.

The great national importance of this establishment, the vast benefits it has bestowed on thousands of families, and our sincere anxiety for the continuance of its prosperity, have induced us to dwell thus long on what we consider to be the great blemishes recently introduced into the system. We have selected this gigantic Institution upon which to make our strictures,—in a spirit of reproof it is true, but not of hostility—in the hope of bringing back the Equitable to its ancient and more wholesome principles; and the more pointedly, because the minor establishments are but too apt to imitate its example, however vicious. The directors are many of them, to our knowledge, highly honourable men; and if they would but take the trouble to consider seriously the trust that is reposed in them, and not wholly defer to their actuary, who, they say, is supposed to have his prejudices and partialities--if they would but exercise their judgments and consult their own feelings,we think they would not hesitate to rescind the two obnoxious, unjust, and, as we deem them, illegal measures, which deprive so many families of what is justly their due, and return to those essential principles,' which have led to the unexampled prosperity of the society;' it is yet time to revert at least to the last and at any rate less objectionable measure of 1810, which required six payments of the annual premium to entitle to a participation of profits *. Let them reflect on the odium and reprobation which must fall on them, individually as well as collectively, should they persist in a measure that cannot fail to provoke the aggrieved to have recourse to a public investigation, before two years are over, either in parliament or in one of the lower courts. This would not be the most pleasant method in which to be convinced that there is a power,' capable of dissolving what, they are so vauntingly told, their own act had made indissoluble, and that what might be the fit boast of a pettifogging attorney is the shame and disgrace of such an association as The Equitable.

We shall touch but on another point.

Mr. Babbage comments with great severity on the practice, as he

says, of almost all assurance companies' paying a commission to agents, solicitors, or brokers; some of them, he informs us, unblushingly offer, even in the statement of their terms, and most of them privately pay, what they call a commission, to those


The old members could not complain of this sacrifice to justice and consistency. It would give only a small proportion of what they would receive, and be confined to those only who assured between 1817 and 1821, if the additions were made in 1827.


sons who bring assurances to their office. Thus the Albion, the British Commercial, the Eagle, the European, the Imperial, the Medico-Clerical, Law Life Association, and Pelican, all advertise in their printed papers, that they give liberal commissions to attorneys, brokers, or agents, procuring life assurances; he knows but of three, certainly,' the Amicable, the Equitable, and the Economic, who do not privately allow such commission; and he feels pleased to add to the small but honourable list, the University Life Assurance Society, which, in a recent instance, preferred the risk of losing a large and valuable assurance, to the disgrace of bribing an agent. An instance is related, which strongly proves to what lamentable consequences the encouragement thus given may subjeet the families of the assured.

• A clergyman, in order to provide at his death for a numerous family, succeeded, by great economy, in saving from his income sufficient to assure his life for 2000l.; being unacquainted with business, he unfortunately trusted the choice of the office at which he assured to the attorney whom he had been in the habit of employing. The attorney effected the policy at one of those offices which make no return of any part of the profits, and which, notwithstanding, charge the same prices as the Equitable. During about twenty years he received a commission of five per cent. from the office, which was paid out of the annual sum, with difficulty spared from the scanty income of his employer; and on the death of the clergyman his seven surviving orphans received from the office the original sum assured, 2000l., instead of about 32001., which they might have received from the Equitable, had not the bribe, held out by the other office, been too great for the integrity of their father's solicitor. In contemplating with scorn the mercenary agent who betrayed, for so trifling a sum, the confidence reposed in him by his client, whose distressed family were thus deprived of 12001., ought not some portion of our indignation to be reserved for those who tempted him to this breach of trust ?'-pp. 136, 137.

On the whole, we are persuaded that the number of assurance offices, and the magnitude of the concerns of many of them, involving, as they do, the interests of tens of thousands of families, will soon require these establishments to be brought under some statutory regulation ; and Mr. Babbage's treatise will be of use in the meantime, in directing general attention to those irregular, and sometimes fraudulent practices, of which individuals too often feel the effects, under the present system.

* I do not recollect the precise age in this case, but it may be worth inqniring the profit derived by the agent from the sacrifice of his employer's interest, Supposing the clergyman's age, at the time of assuring, to have been thiriy, the annual premium on his hse, for an assurance of 20001., would be, at the Equitable, as well as at the other office, 531. 8s. 4d., out of which the agent received annually five per cent., or 21. 13s. 5d.; so that his whole profit amounted to little more than 301., whilst the loss to his employer's family was 12001



Art. II.-1. The Political History of India, from 1784 to 1823.

By Major-General Sir John Malcolm, G.C.B., K.L.S.,

F.R.S., &c. London. 1826. 2 vols. 8vo. 2. A Letter to Sir Charles Forbes, Bart., M. P., on the Adminis

tration of Indian Affairs. By a Civil Servant. London. 1826. 3. Some Considerations on the Policy of the Government of India,

more especially with reference to the Invasion of Burmah. By Lieutenant-Colonel M. Stewart, F.R.S. E., Member of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, formerly Aide-de-Camp to the Earl of Minto and Marquis of Hastings, Governors-General of India. Edinburgh. 1826.

Political Sketch of India' by Sir John Malcolm appeared within two years of the last renewal of the Company's exclusive privileges in regard to the government of India, and the trade with China. That volume has become a manual of modern Indian diplomacy; and although no one can consider its narrative of events as sufficiently detailed, nor the reasoning applied to those events as sufficiently definite, we feel quite assured that a great benefit has been conferred on the community by its publication. Matters not previously exciting general interest, and supposed to involve the necessity of voluminous reading, were treated by the author in a manner, and within a compass, that make them universally intelligible and attractive. Sir John Malcolm's writings possess in these respects a decided superiority over those of Mr. Mill; for, although the latter contain unquestionably much information on every point connected with the history, religion, and general situation of British India, and its inhabitants, the whole is presented in a shape and style that tend to discourage rather than to promote the pursuit of the subject by ordinary readers.

The Political Sketch' is embodied in the first five chapters of the · Political History;' and the author then continues in the same style his account of the political transactions in India, from the commencement of the administration of Lord Minto down to the close of that of Lord Hastings,--the epoch when the Company's government formally declared its supremacy throughout India. We might follow Sir John Malcolm with pleasure, as well as profit, through this long and able narrative; but if we did so, we should scarcely be able to reserve any space for that part of his work in which we are favoured with his views as to the future policy of our government of India.

In the first chapter of the work before us, we find the following passage:

• The British legislature has hitherto but slowly followed the progress of the power of the Company in India. It has legislated for


« ПредишнаНапред »